Larry, Curly and Woe: A Brief History of Casting the Three Stooges Revival

A Three Stooges feature film has long been one of Hollywood's more desirable yet elusive projects in development. As such, it comes with a long, illustrious and occasionally baffling tail of names attached to star. The Farrelly Brothers have ridden this process out for years -- first at Warner Bros. (which picked them up from Columbia), then at MGM, and now at Fox, where their adaptation is finally ready to go... just as soon as the cast is.

Writing today for our sister site Deadline, Mike Fleming offers both the latest bit of casting news -- Sean Hayes is now reportedly set to play Larry -- and some perspective on a seemingly cursed development process that goes all the way back to the mid-'70s, when Mel Brooks sought to adapt The Three Stooges starring himself and stock players Marty Feldman and Dom DeLuise. (The trio made Brooks's even more ambitious Silent Movie instead.)

But more recently, how -- and on whom -- have the Farrellys settled to finally get their passion project in front of the cameras? Here's a brief history of commitments, conjecture, dropouts and deliberations trailing this movie for the last few years:

· Fall 2002: The Farrellys finish their Three Stooges script at Warner Bros. with co-writer Mike Cerrone. After shopping it around, Russell Crowe reportedly turns down the part of Moe.

· Fall 2004: Without a Warners-approved script or any attached talent, the Farrellys' tentative shooting date comes and goes. The rights soon lapse and are eventually acquired by First Look Studios and C3 Entertainment.

· Dec. 2005: Peter Farrelly confirms his and his brother's continued interest in making a Stooges film, noting that they have Benicio Del Toro and Jeff Daniels in mind for the roles of Moe and Larry, respectively. "The Stooges has just been a nightmare, because there's nothing like The Stooges now," Farrelly said at the time. "It's a lot of hitting. And studios are confused. It's like, 'How does this work?'"

· November 2008: After MGM boss Mary Parent picks up the Farrellys' WB-era scripts and the rights from C3, the studio and the brothers officially announce their partnership on a Stooges revival. It receives a budget in the neighborhood of $40 million, a Nov. 2009 release date and the prospect of an "American Idol-like search [...] to find Curly, the most physically gifted member of the trio. Auditions will be held in three or four cities and a finalist will be chosen in Los Angeles." No actors are cited as attached to play either Larry or Moe.

· March 2009: MGM and the Farrellys stun Hollywood with news that Sean Penn is on the hook to play Larry, Del Toro is in talks to play Moe, and -- most surprisingly -- Jim Carrey would gain 40 pounds to take on the role of Curly. Struggling with financial woes in addition to prolonged casting delays, MGM pushes the film's release to an undetermined date in 2010.

· June 2009: Penn drops out of the project, opting instead for a year-long sabbatical to settle family and personal issues. It is not immediately clear whether MGM and the Farrellys will wait for Penn or recast the role of Larry -- and it wouldn't become clear until:

· August 2009: Peter Farrelly tells a Boston Globe reporter that not only have the Stooges principals replaced Penn with Paul Giamatti, but also that Carrey is not set to play Curly after all. And: "If Farrelly has someone in mind [as a Carrey replacement], he didn't tell us who."

· January 2010: Now it's Bobby Farrelly's turn to hit up the Boston press, telling the Herald that Penn is "back on board" to play Larry after squaring away his personal problems. The same day, word comes down the trade-paper pipe that the Farrellys have commenced casting their open-marriage comedy Hall Pass, with Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis as their anchors.

· February 2010: During an interview for The Wolfman, Del Toro acknowledges that the Farrellys' Stooges revival is still very much alive: "I can't tell you we have a date, but there is an ideal cast and we'll see what happens. [...] If that whole group of actors, if they do it, I'm definitely going to be there."

· November 2010 After months of speculation and negotiation, MGM files for bankruptcy. A new $500 million loan is part of pre-packaged plan to reemerge from chapter 11; the Three Stooges revival is expected to spin off to another studio as a result. A week later, Jim Carrey says the project is "dead," admitting he's out for good after unsuccessfully attempting his physical transformation as Curly: "I started experimenting with it a little bit, and I gained 35, 40 pounds. I wanted to gain another 30, 40. When you're [Robert] De Niro in your 20s or early 30s, you can kind of come back from that. It's a tough thing to come back from when you're upwards of 30. Your body can't carry it or you can have a cardiac arrest."

· December 2010: Fox picks up the Stooges project from MGM, squaring away the Farrellys with a raft of producers and a March 14, 2011, start date -- but no cast. The Farrellys return to the casting process, with Peter Farrelly telling Deadline: "[W]e are opening up these roles to the world right now. We'll make it with the best possible people. Our feeling is that no star is too big to audition and no matter who it is, we're going to have to see him in the role. This is not The Flinstones. You've got to be Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard, and that could be a major movie star or an unknown." Also noted: Richard Jenkins, who'd already shot Hall Pass with the brothers, is in talks to play Mother Superior, the nun tormented by the orphaned Stooges.

· February 2011: During an interview for Hall Pass, the Farrellys say Del Toro is not out of the running to play Larry, while more recognized comic actors Andy Samberg and Johnny Knoxville are being considered as well. Meanwhile, Cher is reportedly now the brothers' first choice for Mother Superior.

· March 2011: Variety reports that Fox and the Farrellys are pursuing Knoxville to play Moe. Days later, THR reports that while Knoxville "expressed some interest" in the project, negotiations never commenced and no offer was made. Meanwhile, on March 19 -- five days after Fox's planned Stooges start date -- Cher tweets:


By March 22, TV comic Will Sasso officially enters the film's casting sweepstakes, though no deal is in place and his prospective role -- Larry, Moe or Curly -- remains unspecified. Three days later, Sasso is confirmed to play Curly, while Hank Azaria and James Marsden are cited as "frontrunners" for the parts of Moe and Larry, respectively. The Farrellys are expected to wrap up casting by April 1.

· April 2011: On April 4, Sean Hayes is announced as the Farrellys' surprise choice to play Larry. The role of Moe remains uncast as of this writing.


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